Mental Health Online: A small bite

I’m not going to tell you what you already know

I’m not going to tell you what a big bad scary place the online world can be. I’m not going to repeat what you’ve head time and time again.

The online world is dangerous. But it seems a little impractical to tell you not to use it. So if you’re going to use it, you might as well be prepared for it.

But first, positive changes are coming. Social media bosses are vowing to do more over the content on their platforms to make it safer for those with mental health.

Social media is also a great place to see you’re not alone. There are many accounts of inspiring people or mental health advocates like myself providing good social media content.

But there’s also the bad content. So let’s get right into how you can deal with that.

Know the territory

When you go anywhere, virtually or in real life, knowing what’s out there is a huge benefit. In-game if you know the quieter places on the map or the places with the most loot you’re more likely to survive.

Having as an active thought in your head that there may be triggering and unhelpful content online, alongside the good content will help you avoid such places.

On social media, if certain phrases bring up triggering content, then don’t use them. Being aware of what’s out there is the first step to knowing how to avoid it.

Don’t engage with the enemy

When playing any kind of game when you’re low on resources, you rarely want to be engaging with the enemy. It’s dangerous. It’s uncomfortable. You’ll likely lose the game. When you’ve got mental health – you’re running low on resources.

Negative content is your enemy. Accounts that promote suicide and self-harm are dangerous. They promote a dangerous world. Avoid those accounts, don’t engage with the content.

A note about block lists

Blocking these accounts means that you won’t have to see the content. But I would always use the ‘Report’ function also. This means that the account or post may get taken down, and will totally prevent you and others seeing the content.

Blocking accounts can be a double-edged sword. You’ve stopped yourself seeing triggering content which is good. But you’ve also got a long list of triggering accounts you can unblock and see at any time.

I would always use the report button which gives the best chance of you and other people in worse situations the ability to avoid seeing this content. By doing this, you’re making social media safer for others.

Talk about what you see

I’ve left this one for last. It’s important.

Not everything online can be trusted. However, there are people in your life who can. If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable it’s important you share that.

It may be embarrassing, you may not want your family or friends to know you’ve been looking at negative content. But it’s important to talk.

Based on people I speak to, the effect of social media posts is underestimated. You may feel like you can handle seeing posts that promote self-harm or suicide (by this I mean pictures of scars right through to videos of people stabbing themselves). I say that bluntly. Because the content is blunt.

And that content will sit with you. And you may be thinking about it straight after, or a few days or even weeks after. And then you may decide to replicate that content, which is what we don’t want to happen.

It’s important to talk so you’re not just confining yourself to the content inside.

This may sound highly dramatic but navigating the online world is tough. More so if you’ve got mental health. Knowing where to look for good advice, and where to stay away from is an important skill to have. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

So now you know what’s out there, here are my tips for navigating this online world.

Look for official sources

There are many sources of good information out there. These websites are written by employees but still may share guest posts from people with mental health. Sites like Mind and Time to Change do this well.

There are many other websites too, like Samaritans, NHS Choices and the Mental Health Foundation which are all sources of good mental health support.

The real-life stories are checked to make sure they are not too graphic and don’t contain upsetting detail. That’s why I always recommend these sites as they have filtered content, unlike social media.

Use the people around you.

Online is a convenient, easy way of getting information. But one of your biggest resources around you is your family, friends and doctor.

Instead of looking for content, sometimes speaking face to face is better. That way you can ask questions, interact in the conversation which provides more value than simply reading a webpage.

Know your limits

Sometimes, if you’re feeling low looking at things online can make it worse. We feel sad so we go and look at sad things online in the hope that it will make use feel better. And then we end up feeling sadder.

There’s a personal limit on how much content we can view. It’s different for everyone. Know yours and log out of the social before you get there.

Different people respond to different things

When sharing things online remember that different people go through different things. What you might be fine with, could upset someone else. If you know someone’s going through mental health struggles, think before you share a triggering post.

You may share something through the DMs and mean it in a positive way. But that’s not how it’s always going to be received.

It’s difficult. You’re not going to get it right all the time. That’s okay. It’s just something to keep in mind especially if you know someone is going through difficult times.

As a society, we need to stop sharing upsetting mental health content. By liking and commenting we’re causing these posts to gain more popularity and reach a wider audience, which is what we want to stop happening. Report these posts, they will hopefully be removed and people won’t be upset by them.

And finally, remember your story is unique

When hearing what other people are going through, remember you have your own journey which is different to them. Completely unique and personal to you. No one else is going to share this.

Having people walk on your journey is great. Having a support network and realising you’re not alone is really positive.

Even though we’re walking together we’re going to take a slightly different route to mental health recovery. The ways that you can compare yourself to others are endless. How quickly people are recovering, their daily routine, what medication worked for them, etc…

But they’re not you. What may work for them may not always work for you too. Even if you do have the same diagnosis. Walk your own journey, don’t try and follow someone else’s. Use other people for support, but don’t compare yourself to them.

Final Thoughts

So this is a small bite into a growing problem. You may find this guide overdramatic, overprotecting even. However the world online isn’t always a great place to be, I’ve presented a snapshot of the stark reality we live in.

This post is a bit different from my others. It’s not asking you to change anything specifically. Rather, it’s asking you to think about how you’re navigating the online world, and giving you things to keep in mind as you do this.

And on a final note, I want to repeat something I spoke about earlier. Always report mental health content you see that’s upsetting. That way it can be taken down which will help others.

Some accounts ask you not to report the content, but by doing so you are making the internet a safer place for yourself and everyone else struggling at this time.

Banana, Yugoslavia, Rainbow

In the somewhere that is Yugoslavia, a banana lays on a desk. It’s yellow. Lightly spotted brown. It’s not in a bowl, surrounded by its fruit companions. Just alone. An ordinary banana, on an ordinary desk.

But this was no ordinary day. The rainbow in the sky may have suggested a pot of gold, some joyous occasion would take place. Alas! That was not to be. The sky glistened blue. The banana glistened yellow. Perfect skin, seamlessly flowing. The oak desk stood firm, banana resting on top.

The small cabin had three rooms, hidden away from the rest of society. The main room was more of a study, with a kitchen area to one side. Then there was a bedroom and one bathroom. The cabin was small, which made it unnoticeable. Hidden deep in the forest, it was miles from the nearest road, and certainly wouldn’t be seen by satellite.

Click! Slowly opening the wooden door creaked slightly as sunlight poured in, illuminating the contents inside. Papers blew across the desk, disturbed by the sudden overflow of air in the room. The room breathed again. Slowly.

The rainbow outside was fading. Precipitation was falling at a slower rate, causing there to be fewer water droplets to sustain it’s vibrant, bright colours. Its radiance slowly slipped out of the sky. The secrets inside the room too were fading.

The intruder made his first tentative steps through the room, his boots imprinting themselves on the scattered paper on the floor. The room looked like it hadn’t been touched in years, cobwebs and dust had made it’s home in all the corners. The window shutters were slightly rotted, allowing small scratches of sunlight to percolate through.

Feeling the banana the intruder could see it was ripe. Its yellow facade a sharp contrast against the faded backdrop. A visual reminder that everything is not always as it seems. But the intruder was not there to worry about bananas.

Carefully, the banana was placed back on the desk. The intruder worked slowly, pawing through the appears. Working to a system, no paper was left unturned, but all were put back in the exact positions they had been found. A sense of urgency did nothing to disturb the precision of the intruder’s work.

A pile of boot-stained papers was growing on the desk. They would have to be removed so no trace was left. Of course, fingerprints were an issue for the other papers, but the number of hands that traded them, it would unlikely be thought of any significance.

The rainbow had completely disappeared now, indicating the onslaught of rain had come to an end. However inside, nothing had disappeared, although the boot-marked papers would soon be of course.

Suddenly there was a beep. The intruder looked around, head spinning to locate the source of the noise. He glanced at his watch, although he knew that it was analogue so it wouldn’t make such a noise.

His glance fell on the banana, where a red light was now flashing at the tip! How could he have been so foolish? He dropped everything, grabbed the papers on the desk and dived for the exit. But as the beeping was getting faster he knew it was too late. The bomb was ready to launch.

How free writing helps me

This is rather a short post, as I don’t want to over-complicate this. But I do want to share some insight into the art of free writing, and how it helps me. It’s a great technique to have when you’re feeling stressed and confused by your thoughts, as a private way of letting out the pressure from inside your head.

So what is free writing?

Free writing is writing whatever your thoughts are. Instead of trying to make your writing perfect worrying about spelling and grammar, you’re jotting down all the thoughts that come in your head.

It’s a way of exploring, a way of working out where your ‘at’ with everything and how thing’s have been going for you.

It’s not a simple list of what’s wrong such as anxiety, depression. It’s a creative representation of how those feelings affect you. It’s talking about what you’re going through, but expressing it, creatively, abstractly.

Wait…how do I let go

It sounds easy but this is something I actually struggled with the first few times I did it. The professional writer in my head just focused on how what I was writing didn’t make any sense and all the reasons why it wasn’t okay.

What I forced myself to realise, was that this is okay to be the most messed up piece of writing you’ve ever written. I just allowed myself to write whatever came in my head and tried not to think about it.

This is only for you. You’re the only person who will see this writing (although your more than welcome to share it with someone and therefore it is private, and you can write freely.

So, what does it do?

It gets things out. Instead of being trapped in your head you’ve allowed the thoughts to come onto paper. You’re creating a personal space between you and the paper you’re writing on. Space where you can truly be you. Without fear of judgement or other people knowing. A space to do whatever you want.

I’m not going to share my own free writing with you. That would breach the space I’ve created, and also may be triggering especially extracts in my low extract.

This is a rather short post but I don’t want to overcomplicate things. So if you need any more information, let me know in the comments.

Mental Monday: February Schedule

It’s out! This is the official Mental Monday schedule so roll up, roll up! It’s time to start that conversation about mental health.

Join us on Twitter and YouTube every Monday to participate in the live chat which happens all the way through the show – questions aren’t just saved to the end. You can ask anything about mental health, asking me or our group on the chat. On the chat, we’re here to help you as a community, it’s not a one-way conversation.

Miss an episode? No sweat, just look back to this page to find all the links to the replays.

7PM UTC Every Monday

4th – Missed due to my cold

7th(#TimeToTalkDay) – YouTube & Twitter

11th

18th

25th

It’s February!

So the website’s had its ups and downs last month with a lot of content being edited and added. However, now we settle down into the blog we can start the conversation about mental health.

This is the start of a monthly post for the site. These posts are about coming together as a community and working out what’s positive and to be continued and what we need to work on. I want this site to be led by you. I talk about what you’re talking about, curating content which you ask for.

So what can you expect

The February schedule for Mental Monday is now out. If you miss an episode you can find links to the repeats on there. Mental Monday is my live Q&A broadcast every week on a Monday dedicating the entire time to you

So there’s going to be these Twitter and YouTube episodes every Monday at 7PM UTC to join the conversation about mental health. I love speaking to you guys on there, we have a great time, feel free to join us.

And talking of schedules, we’re back on track

Deviating slightly from the schedule because of all the updates and edits to the site there wasn’t much time for making the content. But now the site’s all sorted we can get back to the content that matters. The blog posts.

So basically Monday it’s mental Monday Tuesday to Thursday I do work for clients, Friday is a new blog post and something special on Sunday but don’t ask me what it is.

So you can expect more posts

Mental health is now the main focus of the site. I still share short stories (for free you don’t have to sign up for anything!) but mental health content is now my priority. And what I talk about is mainly down to you.

I have some ideas and some spare blog posts I’ve written lying around but I want the content on this site to be driven by you. I want to talk about what you’re talking about.

This can be about everything and anything. I like to link to my own story, what’s going on in the world right now and making these into relatable actionable things you can do that will help you. It’s about the tips and tricks, making you know that you’re not alone.

You can also read more short stories

They’ve been suspended for a while but they are now back. I’m going to be completing some of the older short stories with part 2s as well as starting new ones. These are all free – have a look at the current selection now.

So the February Event

This month I’m running a ‘3 for 500’ challenge. You give me 3 random words of your choice and I’ll write a 500-word story on it. The event officially launches today with the form.

This follows on from the Winter Short Story Event where I gave you a short story of your choice to celebrate the festive season. I like doing these events and sharing a bit of free content.

So that’s everything you need to know about what’s happening this February on the site. As you can see there’s more of everything this month.